Quite literally, the Plant Panthers' most grounded player has spent a majority of the summer with his head in the clouds. At an exhaustive clip, undefeated starting quarterback Phillip Ely has been jetting from Knoxville to the Northwest, Clemson to California. His itinerary has included national seven-on-seven events (in Oregon), elite quarterback showcases (in California), one-day camps and unofficial college visits. Now, things are winding down. Soon, so will the speculation about which college he'll choose. Earlier this week, the Times caught up with Ely -- not an easy thing to do these days -- for a brief Q&A:
Since school ended, what campuses have you visited?
"I did a Tennessee-Clemson-Wake Forest trip. I did a Notre Dame trip, an Alabama trip. I did an LSU-Ole Miss trip, a Florida-Florida State trip. I did a UCF trip but I was already there for that. When I was at Elite 11 (a national quarterback showcase) I went to UCLA. And I went to Florida (for the one-day "Friday Night Lights" camp)."
Do you know right now which college you want to attend?
"I'm pretty close."
Would you like to have the decision out of the way before the season starts?
"Yeah, definitely, because I'm a mid-year guy (meaning he'll graduate in January) so I've got to get it out of the way."
What were your criteria in choosing a college?
"To be honest, I didn't go to a school where any of (the criteria) were bad. I didn't dislike any one. All of the facilities were gorgeous, the best in the nation, top-notch technology-wise. The coaches were great, players bonded to what the coaches were saying, so I think most of it was just feeling, the feeling you're supposed to have and it's still taking me a long time to say 'Man, I really need to be there.'"
What was the weirdest thing that happened to you this summer? (We let Coach Robert Weiner assist with this one)
Weiner: "We were going to fly into Birmingham, stay in Tuscaloosa (for a one-day camp) for two hours, drive back to Birmingham and fly out."
Ely: "So we're flying in and we're getting really, really close to the ground; we were probably only about 200 yards off the ground. I mean, we're about to go in, then all of the sudden it picks back up and shoots up. ... The (pilot) gets on the (intercom) and is like, 'We're going to Panama City right now. There are microbursts in the air.'"
Weiner: "I thought microbursts were those little specks that are in gum that make it fresher."
Coach Weiner often has said you're an extension of him on the field. So in that light, what's your biggest concern about the 2010 team?
"I think just some oomph. I think we really do work hard and I think the linemen probably work harder than the skill guys, to be honest. ... You've just got guys in the hallways just kind of goofing off and I always try to get at them. You look at the linemen and all the guys are in here (in the weightroom) working their butt off, just stuff like that. ... I just think we need a little more enthusiasm and a mentality like, 'Hey, nothing's given to you, so go out and work your butt off.'"
How big is the Tampa Bay Tech game for you? (TBT defeated Plant, 32-30, in the 2009 season opener)
"Very big. On our rings it says 13-1 and it should be 14-0. It's something I'm sure we're going to be ready for. If they're the better team, then they're going to have to go through a pretty tough team in front of them to beat us. I never played that game (Ely had a back injury)."